The Exhibit features work of Heart Gallery Alabama

Jeremy D. Smith - The Watchman

Thirteen-year-old Meyer Wolnek helps hang photos from Heart Gallery Alabama in The Exhibit at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Monday.

The Exhibit will be showing a little heart in the final three months of 2012. The art display in the front hall of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, as of Monday, is showing off the faces of various young people statewide who are in need of adoption.

The photos giving life to the hospital walls this quarter are provided by Heart Gallery Alabama, a non-profit group dedicated to helping find homes for children in foster care.

“We are a statewide non-profit who helps promote adoption of children in foster care,” Michelle Bearman-Wolnek, executive director and co-founder of Heart Gallery Alabama, said. “This is a portrait exhibit of children that are currently in the state who are legally available for adoption.”

The relationship between Heart Gallery Alabama and The Exhibit came about through the work of the staff at Marengo County Department of Human Resources.

“We try to be in all areas of the state and in all different types of venues whether it be in libraries, churches anywhere there is a group of people that can learn more about our kids,” Bearman-Wolnek, who hung the photos at BWWMH Monday, said.

Jeremy D. Smith - The Watchman

Michelle Bearman-Wolnek, executive director of Heart Gallery Alabama, hangs a photo of children currently in foster care and in need of adoption. Heart Gallery Alabama will have several photos on display in The Exhibit at BWWMH through the rest of the year.

Heart Gallery Alabama came about in 2005 after Bearman-Wolnek and her colleagues learned of Heart Galleries in other states.

“In 2005, we learned about the idea of the Heart Gallery in other states and we contacted the local state DHR and we asked if we could try and bring it to Alabama,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “I’m an adoptive parent and a social worker and felt like this was really important for us to bring attention to children that were in care so that potential families could learn more about them and possibly adopt.”

Heart Gallery is designed to help prospective adoptive families see the faces and learn the stories of children in need of adoption throughout the state. To do so, the organization calls upon the talents of professional photographers to successfully capture in a single image the personality of a particular child in foster care.

“We get referrals from the social workers at DHR of available children who need help with recruitment. They’re usually sibling groups or children eight or older,” Bearman-Wolnek said. “Then we recruit professional photographers who help photograph the children. And we have a videographer who helps tell each child’s story. If you see a child in The Exhibit, you can go on our website and see the video and learn more about them.”

Heart Gallery Alabama will be on display in The Exhibit through the end of the year. There will be a reception to welcome Heart Gallery Alabama to The Exhibit Thursday, Oct. 11 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the front hall of the hospital.

Those seeking more information about Heart Gallery Alabama are encouraged to visit the organization’s website at HeartGalleryAlabama.com.